音楽と人 - November 2010
Interview with Imawano Kiyoshiro
Text by Yoshirou Iwami
Translation: w_b

First I'd like to ask you about the recently released Best Of disc, "Magic". In one word it's a compilation of your solo works. What was the reasoning for putting out this kind of album at this particular time?
Nothing in particular...... The record company asked me if I'd put one out and I said why not *laughs*.

I see *laughs*. Well then, going in chronological order, "Ikenai Rouge Magic" is the oldest song on the album. It's been a whole 12 years since it came out.
Wow, 's true.

It was a massive hit, back in the time of your collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Don't you find it kind of shocking to think that people who were still babies at the time are now in junior high?
Yeah, guess so...... Ok, I do.

How did the collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto come about?
Umm, was it my advertising agency who went ahead and put us together? Wait, maybe it was Sakamoto-kun who said he wanted to work with me...... It was a pretty major thing back then...... *smiles*

Was that really how it started? I always got the impression it was a collaboration between the leaders of techno and of rock.
Ah, that is how it felt. Except it's the the techno guy who was the real hit.

Reminds me of when we did this press conference, I think we had gone to a hotel and there were some thirty of these stupid cows there. And every single one of them, paraded right in front of me and went straight for Sakamoto.

I was so pissed at the time. Ah well, it was an interesting collaboration.

The next oldest song is "Jouhin na neko mitai na", from DANGER. You were working with Umezu Kazutoki-san at the time?
Yes. My manager came to talk to me about making a record with RC's longstanding horn section, Umezu and Katayama, and so I said alright!

Hey, you've been putting the blame on other people ever since we started *laughs*.
Yeah well, seems like I pretty much go along with other people's plans *laughs*. But then I did like Umezu-san's project, "Seikatsu Kojou Jinkai". I even made a guest appearance.

And how did that go?
It was purely jazz so to me it felt like there was almost no limit to what I was allowed. It was interesting, feeling like anything goes. I mean, rock might feel free but there's still a ton of rules to follow, right?

Ah, you're right. Now, next there's "S.F", your collaboration with Johnny, Louis and Char.
So you see, my then manager came and....

He came to talk to me *laughs*. I think Chabo was doing his solo at the time......I'm guessing that's when that was. The three of them has this great foreign feel to their rhythm.

Next is "WATTATA", a song from your first solo RAZOR SHARP. So first the talks of RC going to record in London fell through and then it was decided that you'd record your solo there instead?
Yeah. See, not long before that I had gone to London to do a 12-inch single remix with RC. My sound changed completely after that. I suggested that we record over there next but everyone hated the idea *laughs*, so I went on my own. I had already begun to pull away from RC, at the time.

Because you were the only one craving change?
It seemed so, yes.

But the situation can become quite tense if a band doesn't evolve to some degree.
Yeah, exactly. The way I saw it, a lack of change would make it rough on us. But regardless, all I wanted was to record in England. Desperately. That's why I went by myself and then once I went things picked up, I was recording all the way up till the Japanese tour.

And that's when you recorded the live album HAPPY HEADS which includes the song "RUBY TUESDAY".

And now we'll skip all the way to The Timers' "Day Dream Believer"....
But that's not mine.

Hahahaha. Are you going to go there again?
They added a song by some guy who just happens to have my voice *laughs*.

I had to laugh when I saw "Vo/G: Zerry" listed in the credits on the Best Of album.
What were Toshiba EMI thinking *laughs*. Ah well, but I do happen to sing that song as well.

Yes yes *smiles*. But you were so full of anger, when COVERS was taken off the shelves and then when you were with The Timers.
I blew up. *smiles*

And now how do you feel when you look back at those times?
Hm......maybe I was somewhat too angry......but personally I really don't think so *laughs*. My views are still pretty much the same, even now. But I try not to think about it all you know, about the anger, the frustration I felt back then. It's not good for me *laughs*, makes me sick.

When I think of The Timers I can't help feeling like you've spent close to a decade in a permanent state of anger. It must've been quite unpleasant?
Indeed...... Though I still think that I'd like to have a second go at what I attempted with The Timers. But I know I wouldn't be allowed to release an album, for one because of the lyrics. Then again I'm perfectly aware that even if I left Toshiba and made an indies release the album would still end up being conservative....It'd be nice to be allowed to do it both ways.

Mmm. I also get the impression that you were the only one angry about COVERS being banned, even though that's something that concerned the whole band.

So what was actually going on in the band at the time?
Well you know, that's exactly what I'm asking myself. But of course you'll have your differences when you put 5 people together *smiles*.

Then was it during this period that you grew distant towards RC?
Umm...... Now that I think about it maybe I did grow apart. But then......mm....

I see you don't particularily want to talk about it.
No, that's not it *smiles*, give me a moment... Ah, got it now. See, the other members were contented with RC's status, they had no desire for growth, change.

So you were the only one who constantly wanted to evolve?
Yeah. The way I see it, our old songs would always be there for us to go back to. The more people change, the more they stay the same so we'd always have our old songs to rely on, as a kind of asset or savings account.

And it can't be that good to live solely off your savings, right.
Yup. I thought it'd be so much more interesting to try varied, different things. I do think that even now.

You certainly have done many different things since RC suspended their activity. There's HIS (a collaboration with Harumi Hosono and Fuyumi Sakamoto), there's Booker T & The MG's, you formed the 2.3's, and you've even released an album under your own name.
You bet I did *laughs*.

You never thought about taking a break after working with a band like RC? After all, you did have many people telling you to take a break to recharge your batteries, to find yourself again.
They'd say that cause they're devoid of talent.

Oo! *laughs*
Taking a break just wouldn't do it for me *laughs*. Moving forward's more interesting. Staying home would only hinder that *laughs*.

Hahahaha. Oh really?
Yes. My kid's still too small to play with so I can't even do that, I know if I stayed home I'd give in and spend all my time drinking beer and watching baseball *laughs*.

Yet you continue to be more active than most young people, and that despite having already attained the status of a leader in rock.
You know, young people are patetic.

Spoken like an old man *laughs*.
Hahahaha. They really are though. When I was with The Timers quite a few bands tried copying us but none of them came even close *laughs*.

So that's how you feel? *laughs* Alright, then what do you think of the deplorable state of rock nowadays?
Well...it feels very lonely you know. Everyone's been fed into the system *smiles*, guess they'll live their lives out thinking it's for the best. But you know, that really isn't what rock is supposed to be about.

Did you ever feel like being freed from RC let you regain your strength?
It very much felt like I was set free, since during the latter half of RC's activity I pretty much thought I wouldn't be able to do any of the things I wanted.

Hmm. And yet on August 13th you took part in the "RC Matsuri" event with Chabo-san, at the Hibiya Yagai Daiongakudou. Even though you harbored these thoughts towards RC....
Yes *smiles*.

When did the talks begin about organizing that particular event?
Was it in April or May......No wait, might've been February or March *smiles*.

Was it you who initiated them? Or Chabo-san?
What can I tell you. It's my staff that asked me if I wouldn't be interested, something along those lines.

That again? *laughs* But why did they ask for something like that in the first place?
I see you're not a fan of RC? *laughs*

*sighs* Did you honestly just go along with the staff's idea?
Yes. Then it was decided that I should be the one to personally talk to Nakaido-san, that he'd be more straightforward with me as to whether he'd do it or not. They were all anxious to hear his decision. *laughs*

That's why I called him about it, asked him if he'd want to join me at the Yagai Daiongakudou on August 13th. He told me to wait two weeks because he was too busy composing to give it much thought. But the two weeks passed and still I hadn't heard a word. I called him again the third week and he said he'd let me know in three days. But the three days passed and still nothing.

So I call him again and he tells me he's not sure whether he wants to do it, that if he decided to do this he'd have to fully commit to it.

What kind of reasoning is that? *laughs*
It didn't make much sense to me either so I told him that look, do it, don't do it, either one's fine with me. But please decide already otherwise we'll all be in trouble. So only then he says, ok!

Wow, finally....
"Ok, give me two more days and I'll let you know." *laughs*

He's never been able to make up his mind *laughs*. But eventually he decided he'd do it, after making me wait for a month and a half.

I see *laughs*. I've heard Chabo-san did a guest appearance during your June 25th Shibuya Koukaido live, and that together you performed "Kimi ga boku wo shitteiru". Did it feel like a warm up of sorts, preceding the Daiongakudou event?
It did. Of course by then we had already settled the Daiongakudou issue but this wasn't done to promote the coming event, we just thought we'd play something together and see how it went. And then Nakaido-san suggested we play "Kimi boku".

How did you decide on the Daiongakudou setlist?
Uh... I had a chat with Nakaido-san but at the same time I received tons of kind advice from all sides *smiles*. I actually was thinking that maybe we should do a kind of one-day only RC hit parade.

You certainly did play a surprising amount of RC's biggest hits.
Yeah, we played songs from pretty much right up until BEAT POPS......actually, maybe I should call it our prime *laughs*. We mainly focused on songs from that period.

And how did you feel the event went?
I was drained. It was that hot. But I did have fun. I felt that our songs hadn't gotten old, they hadn't become oldies yet. Though I get the feeling I might've been the only one who thought so *laughs*. And of course Nakaido-kun has his own particular guitar rhythm. It felt wonderful to jump around to it again.

How many years had it been since you last shared the stage with Chabo-san?
Four, I think.

Has his style evolved a lot during that whole time?
No and believe me, I wish he'd change a bit.

No, really. Then again maybe he thinks the same about me *laughs*.

So you're telling me he hasn't changed at all even though it's been four years?
Usually when you meet up with someone after four years you do feel like it's been a long time, but I didn't feel that way at all. It felt like old times again.

It's pretty damn strange. Even when I called him, it didn't feel as if we hadn't spoken for four years.

What? So for four years you never met, never even spoke on the phone?
Well, I wouldn't say "never" but we seldom did. We didn't work together either *smiles*.

And...you're saying that even though you hadn't done anything together all that time, you were happy with your performances during the event?

And yet you broke off that kind of collaboration?
I'm not sure in the end......maybe I did, maybe not *smiles*. But playing together brought back many memories, some good but some bad as well.

Bad ones as well? *smiles*
Yeah. They came right back. See, that's why it felt like no time had passed.

As frustrating as those memories are, don't you think you'll look back on them fondly in the future?
Yes. And I think Nakaido-kun probably thinks the same way.

For the people who came to see you some of it was already part of the past. Even when they heard "Kimi ga boku wo shitteru", I'm sure to them it felt like a song about your and Chabo-san's undying friendship. I'm sure it brought tears to their eyes.
Ah, in this case it's the song itself that took on this particular meaning for them.

But weren't you moved as well when you were playing it?
No. I'm a singing machine *laughs*.

Hahahaha. Then maybe you were trying to compute how to make fans cry with your song?
Not me, but I think Nakaido wanted to *laughs*. I think he intended on that at the Shibuya Koukaido live in June, when he first brought up doing "Kimi ga boku wo shitteru".

*laughs* Will you keep in touch with Chabo-san now that you've both played that event?
Maybe, somehow? It depends on Nakaido.

And you Kiyoshiro-san, do you want to?
How can I say this. If we're going to work together, we should do so properly. Write new songs, put out an album, and not just play songs from our heyday.

Of course right about now I'm wishing you'd say there's a possibility of RC getting back together but first, I need to confirm something with you. Should I consider RC as broken up? I know you never made any official announcements.
But we did make one annoucement, in a sports journal.

Oh, really? My memory's fuzzy on this point and half the people I asked said you broke up, while the other half insited you were on hiatus.
Mm, that's quite alright. Serves its purpose. *smiles*

I assume you don't want to clarify?
Hmm...well, I feel like it's fine either way. Whether we're broken up or on hiatus, still doesn't change that fact that we're not working together.

Alright, I see your point *smiles*. In the world of Japanese show business it's a common thing to go out with a bang, with one last show. Didn't you wish for that kind of closure?
Nah......no, far from it. I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. *smiles*

I see *smiles*. You didn't even want to do it for the fans who had supported you all along?
Even then, it seemed like too much effort *smiles*. I had no energy left for anything of the sort.

So...there might be a possibility of RC reuniting?
Well...not in my opinion....

What do you mean?
People everywhere seem to think now that we've gotten back together with Chabo there's an 80% probability that we'll reunite, but I really don't think so.

Ah, so you're saying that the five of you will not get back together.
Yup. RC can only exist with the five of us together. If even one of us isn't motivated...that wouldn't go so well....

Hm. I'd like to think that the situation will change, someday in the future.
Yes. We will see.